Technology

Importing users to Office 365 from CSV file – username must be in UPN format

Every now and again, I come across a piece of advice on the net from seemingly authoritative sources that’s just plain wrong. Or at least it’s factually correct but doesn’t answer the question that was asked.  One such example was a few weeks ago when I was uploading user details via CSV to bulk provision cloud accounts in Office 365.

The import was failing, telling me that “The user name is not valid. You can only use letters and numbers. No spaces”. Except that’s not really the problem here – we were using the CSV template downloaded from the Office 365 Admin Center and there were no letters and spaces.

Stupidly, I’d put in the user names – like MarkWilson – but of course Office 365 usernames are in UPN format.  What the message could (more helpfully) have said is “The user name is not valid. It should be in the format username@fullyqualifieddomainname”.

Unfortunately, there is a “verified answer” on a Microsoft Community forum post that is incorrect. It tells the original poster to download a blank CSV file from the portal and to populate that but that’s exactly what they (and I) did. The correct answer (which is a “suggested answer”, but not a “verified answer”) says to include the @domainname in the user name field in the CSV file. In my example, that would be markwilson@tenantname.onmicrosoft.com (assuming no other domain names have been associated with the tenant). So far, my requests for Microsoft to get this fixed have failed… here’s hoping that my blog post comes up in the next person’s Google/Bing search…

Technology

Changing the default app used to open tel: links on Windows

Earlier this morning I had a missed call notification in Outlook. I clicked the number, Windows asked me which app I wanted to open that type of link (a tel: URI) and I clicked the wrong option. All of a sudden I had phone numbers opening in the Skype Windows 8 app rather than in my Skype for Business client (previously the Lync client).

It turns out that it’s a relatively simple change to make but it’s not necessarily obvious that the UI to do this is the one to change file type associations (this is a link, not a file…).

  1. In Control Panel go to Default Programs and then Set Default Programs (the quickest way is to hit the Windows key and type “Default Programs“).
  2. Scroll down to Lync (desktop). Despite the name, this is the Skype for Business desktop client.
  3. Select Lync (desktop) and click Chose defaults for this program:
  4. You’ll see that the URL:Tel Protocol entry is not checked, because it’s associated with Skype:
  5. Select the Checkbox next to TEL and click Save:
  6. If you look at the Skype program associations, TEL will now be showing as defaulting to Skype for Business (desktop):

There’s more information in Paul Thurrott’s Windows 8 Tip on Changing File Associations.

Technology

Short takes: @ in DNS records; are ‘ and & legal in an email address?; changing the search base for IDfix

A few short items that don’t quite warrant their own blog post…

@ in DNS records

Whilst working with a customer on their Office 365 integration recently, we had a requirement to add various DNS records, including the TXT record for domain verification which included an @ symbol. The DNS provider’s systems didn’t allow us to do this, or to use a space instead to denote the origin of the domain. Try googling for @ and you’ll have some challenges too…

One support call later and we had the answer… use a *.  It seemed to do the trick as soon after that the Microsoft servers were able to recognise our record and we continues with the domain configuration.

Are ‘ and & “legal” in an email address?

Another interesting item that came up was from running the IDfix domain synchronisation error remediation tool to check the on-premises directory before synchronisation.  Some of the objects it flagged as requiring remediation were distribution groups with apostrophes (‘) or ampersands (&) in their SMTP addresses. Fair enough, but that got me wondering how/why those addresses ever worked at all (I once had an argument with someone who alleged that the hyphen in my wife’s domain name was an “illegal” character). Well, it seems that, technically, they are allowable in SMTP (I struggled reading the RFCs, but Wikipedia makes it clearer) but certainly not good practice… and definitely not for synchronisation with Azure AD.

Changing the search base for IDfix

I mentioned the IDfix tool above and, sometimes, running it against a whole domain can be difficult to cope with the results.  As we planned to filter directory synchronisation on certain organizational units (OUs), it made sense to query the domain for issues on those same OUs. This is possible in the settings for IDfix, where the LDAP query for the search base can be changed.

Technology

Short takes: missing keys, closing apps and taking screen grabs

Another post with a few things I’ve collected in my browser tabs over the last few weeks…

Locating the hash (#) key on a Mac keyboard

I love the Apple wireless keyboard that I use with my Mac Mini but tweeting without a hash key can be challenging at times…

So much for the Mac’s simplicity when I have to Google to find the hash key (it’s at Alt+3, BTW)!

Closing Windows 8 apps with the Surface/Surface Pro touch/type covers

And, talking of missing keys… the Surface/Surface Pro touch/type covers have function keys that double up as media keys so, if you want to Alt-F4 to close an app, remember that’s Alt+Fn+F4.

Snipping from “Metro” apps in Windows 8.1

If you want to snip a portion of the screen in Windows 8.x and you’re running a full-screen (“Metro”) app, then you’re out of luck – the Snipping Tool only works in desktop mode. The workaround is to take a screenshot with PrtSc and then edit the resulting clipboard contents. Hopefully this gets better in Windows 10?

So where is the PrtSc key for the Surface/Surface Pro touch/type covers?

There isn’t a PrtSc key, but Fn+space will grab the whole screen (as PrtSc does on a normal PC keyboard) and Alt+Fn+space will grab the current window and copy it to the clipboard (as Alt+PrtSc does normally).

 

Technology

The OneDrive that’s really two drives…

Jamie Thomson and I have long since lamented the challenges of Microsoft’s two directories for cloud services and it doesn’t stop there. Take a look at cloud storage:

  • OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud-based storage offering, accessed with a Microsoft Account (formerly a Windows Live ID, or a Passport if you go back far enough…)
  • OneDrive for Business is Microsoft’s cloud-based storage offering, accessed with an Organizational Account (which lives in Microsoft Azure AD)

Similar names, similar purpose, totally different implementation – as the OneDrive for Business product is still Groove (which later became SharePoint Workspace) under the covers (have a look at the filename when you download the client).

And look what happens when you have both products with the same email address used to access them:

Still, at least the site detects that this has happened and gives you the choice. And there is some hope for future convergence as Jamie highlights in this blog post from earlier in the year.

Earlier this week, I was helping a customer to get ready for an Office 365 pilot and they were having challenges with the OneDrive client. The version available for download from the Office 365 portal is a click-to-run installation and it didn’t want to play nicely with their .MSI-based Office 2013 installation (which should already include the client anyway). Actually, that didn’t really matter because the OneDrive client is also included in Windows 8.1, which was the operating system being used.

The confusion came with setting up the connected services inside Office:

  • To set up a OneDrive account, click on OneDrive – but that will only accept Microsoft Account credentials and, after configuration it will show as something like “OneDrive – Personal”.
  • To set up OneDrive for Business, don’t click OneDrive but select SharePoint instead. After logging on with your Organizational Account credentials, that will be displayed as “OneDrive – organisation name” (with SharePoint sites appearing as “Sites – organisation name”).

Some illustration might help so, below is a shot of my connected services. Because I’m connected to multiple Office 365 tenants, you can see that I have multiple OneDrive [for Business] and Sites entries:

If you’re trying to get hold of the OneDrive for Business sync client for SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online, Microsoft knowledge base article 2903984 has the links for the click-to-run install.  If you want an MSI version, then you’re out of luck – but you can create a customised Office 2013 installation instead as OneDrive for Business (formerly SkyDrive Pro) was originally released as part of several Office 2013 suites (as described in Microsoft knowledge base article 2904296.

Finally, if you’re trying to work out how to get a OneDrive for Business app on Windows Phone, the OneDrive app can connect to both OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.

Confused?

Technology

Some patience required when changing a display name for an Exchange Online mailbox

Mrs W and I have been married for a long time but, until last week, she was still using her maiden name for work. Now, for a variety of reasons, is a good time for her to switch and, as we use Office 365 for her business email, I said “Yeah, it’s really simple; just let me know when you’ve told your contacts about the name change and I’ll switch it over.”

So, when the time came, I changed the display name in the Exchange Online Exchange Admin Center (no changes to her SMTP addresses were needed) and thought that would be it. Nope. Test emails sent came from the original display name. The same happened with another account that I changed the name on. Wondering if this was an Outlook issue, I tried from Outlook Web App: no difference. Test emails were sent back and forth to email addresses outside our Office 365 tenant (like my work account) and the original name stubbornly stuck – I even looked in the message headers and, there it was.

I’m not sure, but I think the issue was related to the offline address book as, the GAL reflected the change immediately but the offline GAL was still showing the old display name.

Unlike in an on-premises Exchange installation, I couldn’t update the address book: connecting to Exchange Online via PowerShell and asking for Get-Command *Offline* told me that the Update-OfflineAddressBook cmdlet is not available in Exchange Online (confirmed in the TechNet reference, which only refers to Exchange Server 2013).

Like so many things in Exchange (and I remember this from my original Exchange 4.0 training course in 1996), it proved to be one issue that’s best left for a few hours to fix itself. The offline GAL updated overnight and emails were then sent with the new display name (not sure why this affected OWA though…).

Technology

One month with the Surface Pro 3

When I started my current job and tweeted about my new “laptop” (a Microsoft Surface Pro 3), I was a little surprised at the reaction from some people, including one of my friends whose words were along the line of “give it a month and then then tell me if you still like it…”

Well, it’s been a month, so here we go…

<tl; dr> I really, really, like it.

That’s not really much of a review though… so here’s some of the things that are good, and some that are less so…

Starting out with the positives:

  • It’s a fully-featured PC. Every time I see someone comparing the Surface with an iPad I cringe. I tried using an iPad as my primary device and it didn’t work for me. I can see why it would for some people but I need to work with multiple applications and task switch, copy and paste text all of the time. The Surface Pro runs Windows 8.1 and does everything I expect of a Windows PC, plus the benefits of having a touch screen display and a tablet form factor.
  • The display is fantastic. Crisp, clear, 2160×1440 (as Ed Bott highlights, that would be called a retina display on an Apple device).
  • The type cover keyboard is really good. Backlit keys, easy to type on, a good size. Combined with the kickstand on the tablet itself, it becomes a fully-featured 12″ laptop and it’s far more stable than many tablet/cover/keyboard combinations.
  • I live in OneNote. I can draw with the Surface Pen now – and that is incredibly useful.
  • It’s light. I haven’t checked how light, but light enough to carry with ease.
  • The power supply is not too big – and it has a USB charging socket too. Having said that, I can usually manage on the battery to catch the train in/out of London and get through a customer meeting.

On the downside though:

  • There aren’t enough USB ports and the use of a Mini DisplayPort means I need to carry adaptors. To be fair, I carry quite a few for my other devices too.
  • The price of accessories is way over the top: type cover is a penny under £110; Surface Pen is £45; Docking station is £165. Really? Add that to the cost of the device itself and you could buy a pretty good laptop. (The Surface Pro 3 range starts at £639 but the Intel i5 model with 4GB RAM and 128GB of storage that I use is £849 and the top of the range Intel i7 with 8GB RAM and 512GB storage will set you back £1549).
  • The type cover trackpad is awful. I use a mouse. That’s how bad it is.
  • The pen takes some getting used to (this post from Microsoft helps) – and I ran through the first set of batteries in no time (this support page came in useful too).
  • I’ve had some worrying issues with resuming from standby, sometimes not resuming at all, sometimes having to go through a full reboot. I suspect that’s the Windows build it’s running though – I can’t blame the Surface for that…

I’m more than happy with the Surface Pro 3 (at least, I am until the Surface Pro 4 comes out!). I was given the choice between this and a Dell ultrabook and I’m pretty sure I made the right choice. Maybe if I was a developer and I needed a laptop which was effectively a portable server then that would be a different story – but for my work as a Consultant/Architect – it’s exactly what I need.

If you need a Windows PC, your work is mobile (and not too taxing in terms of hardware requirements), and your employer has the facilities for effective remote working, the Surface Pro 3 is worth a look. I’d even go as far as to say I would spend my own money on this device. That’s more than I can say about any company-supplied PC I’ve had to date.

Technology

The tools of a mobile worker… including a plethora of cables and adapters

One of the great things about working for my current employer is that they provide me with the devices I need for mobile working and we use all of the software that we are helping our customers to adopt. My tools are a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet and a Nokia Lumia 830 smartphone, together with the latest released versions of Windows and Office and I consume services from the Microsoft Cloud including all of the Office 365 workloads as well as some on-premises apps like Skype for Business. Using the full Microsoft stack does mean I’ve had to go back to using Internet Exploder though… and I am at last getting used to Bing and weening myself of the habit of using the big G for search – at least on my work PC!

I’m not saying that the use of a Surface Pro 3 was the reason I took the job – but it may have been a factor and not lugging around a heavy laptop has some major advantages (even the small form factor laptop I used for my last job was pretty weighty).

Unfortunately, with such a svelte device comes a down-side… namely that I now carry a plethora of cables and adapters, as illustrated by my former colleague Dom Allen (who now works for a rival Microsoft Partner):

Superb hardware. Spoilt slightly by the need for an appendage.

A photo posted by Dom Allen (@domejallen) on

So, what’s in my bag these days alongside the Surface Pro and its charger?

Maybe not quite the portable computing panacea I might have hoped for… but at least they all fit inside a pencil case!

(Unrelated to work, I also carry a 10cm Apple Certified Lightning to USB cable and an Anker Astro E1 5200mAh external battery power bank to keep my iPhone alive all day…)

Technology Waffle and randomness

Milton Keynes Geek Night – three years on and going from strength to strength (#MKGN)

I don’t remember how I first became aware of Milton Keynes Geek Night but, three years ago, I turned up in a room above a converted bus station to see what this new event would be like. 13 Geek Nights later (plus a special Geek Mental Health event too) and I haven’t missed a single night*, being described as a “groupie” by one of the founders. I even brought my wife along once…

In the early days, I used to blog about the topics of discussion. More recently I’ve struggled to find the time but the audio from the talks is on SoundCloud (well, all of the talks from Geek Night 3 onwards, that is).

Last night’s MK Geek Night lived up to expectations. Not being a designer or a developer, I tend to find that some of the talks are a little beyond my knowledge but still good for an IT architect to understand at a conceptual level.

I thought that, as MK Geek Night celebrates its third birthday, now would be a good time to look back on some of my favourite talks:

…and then there are Ben Foxall (@BenjaminBenBen)’s talks which are in a category of their own – they need to be on YouTube not SoundCloud! I just cant do them justice in words but how he gets 200 people to join in on their devices and illustrate some amazing functionality inside a browser I do not know. Similarly, Sii Cockerill (@siicockerill)’s dynamic art based on maths/environmental considerations was incredibly visual but you can at least see the results on the web.

I’ll sign off with massive congratulations and a huge thank you to Richard Wiggins (@RichardWiggins) and David Hughes (@DavidHughes) who organise and MC these events – and to all of the sponsors (without whom they wouldn’t be able to take place) – and of course to the speakers too! Here’s to many more years of #MKGN.

 

*There was also an MKGN All-Dayer which I was unable to join but hey, that’s not a “geek night” is it?!

Waffle and randomness

Dabbling at DIY: fixing dripping taps and wiring bathroom extractor fans

This week, my blog is in danger of transforming from markwilson.it to markwilson.diy. Fear not, normal service will be resumed soon!

As I’ve worked through the seemingly never-ending list of jobs-that-need-to-be-done-one-day this week, I dabbled in some minor plumbing and electrical work… I thought I’d blog some notes because I’m bound to have to come back to this again one day!

Changing the ceramic valve in a dripping tap

The Franke Panto taps that were installed in our kitchen/utility room have been great – after all, their function is pretty straightforward: all I want a tap to do is look good and dispense water on demand!

Unfortunately the kitchen tap had begun to drip on the cold flow. A mini science experiment with my sons told me it was losing quite a lot of water every day so I turned off the cold supply using the isolator valve below the sink. I couldn’t see how to fix the tap though, so we asked advice from a plumber we’ve worked with before. He didn’t know how to get into the tap but told us it would be the ceramic valve that needed replacing (cue sucking of air through teeth and “it’ll cost you” look) and we might as well get a new tap.

What nonsense! After 3 months of confusion about which part to buy based on my Internet “reaseach” and putting off calling Franke’s spares/service partners for fear of being bamboozled, Central Services were really helpful, a new ceramic valve cost me just over £15 and I installed it myself in 5 minutes…

One of the challenges I had was whereas it seems for many taps you can prise away the cap on the end of the tap (the bit with the red or blue marker on it), ours didn’t work like that as the Panto just has a tiny marker on the front of the tap to show which side is hot/cold. Then I realised that there was a cap on the end – it was on a screw thread, which then exposed the grub screw inside, allowing access to the valve, which was then easily removed with a spanner (after removing the collar that covers it).

Of course, after I had asked a plumber, procrastinated, and finally done the job myself I found this video (ignore the sexist comments if you view it on YouTube…):

Blue and yellow wires for live and neutral?

Another job was to change the old, noisy, bathroom fan for something quieter as part of my preparation for an upcoming bathroom refit. When I took the old one out I was surprised to find that the wiring used red/yellow/blue (what appears to be three-phase wiring) instead of twin and earth.

(My house was built in the 1990s – today the red/yellow/blue would be brown/black/grey.)

I could see that blue was neutral and yellow was live (based on how the old fan was wired) but couldn’t understand why until I found this advice on installing a shower extractor fan. Yellow (now black) is switched live (cf. red/brown for live, not used in my installation).

 

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